Green Garlic Pesto

This week, we received some green garlic from our CSA. I had never used this before–it consists of very young, green garlic bulbs and their scapes.

I have been adding it to recipes such as hummus and black bean salad for a lovely flavor. I also came up with the recipe for this lovely pesto, which I ended up serving on pizza.

After I made the pesto, my 21 month old daughter was licking it from the spatula and eagerly signing “more”, which she also did as she ate the pizza. As she is certainly the toughest food critic in the house, I considered this a high compliment. We have leftover pesto that I plan to serve with pasta later this week.

Green Garlic Pesto: 

  • 3 cups of fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (other nuts would work as well)
  • 4 green garlics–heads and scapes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until you’ve reached your desired consistency. Taste and adjust any ingredient proportions to fit your tastes.

To make the pesto pizza, we bought organic, refrigerated pizza dough from our local grocery store. We followed the instructions for preparing it, and stretched it to fit a cookie sheet (we don’t have a pizza pan or a large oven). We then spread the dough with pesto, and topped it with mushrooms, Field Roast Apple Sage sausage, and a new mozzarella-style vegan cheese I found at Whole Foods. It’s my new favorite vegan cheese, so I’d encourage you to give it a try!

It’s not every day you find a recipe that feels sophisticated and is also loved by a toddler. If you have a recipe like that, I’d love to know!

Food is Love

We’ve been having our bathroom remodeled. Jose, the man who is doing most of the work, is incredibly kind. However, on the first day he was working here, he came downstairs still wearing his face mask that he’d been working in. My daughter burst into tears and after that I tried to talk to her about Jose I would say things like, “I know Jose looked scary in that mask. He needed it to keep him safe. He is very nice. Tomorrow when he comes back, I will say hi to him.” Daisy’s consistent response was, “no.”

After a few days though, Daisy began to look forward to Jose’s arrival. She would watch at the window as he unloaded his red truck, and she now has words like “saw” and “machine” in her vocabulary. Yesterday, she pointed at the bathroom where Jose was, and simply stated, “nice.”

Later that afternoon, I told Jose she had said that and she looked at him and repeated the word. His face lit up—if you’re going to be doing incredibly draining work all day long, it helps to have an adorable toddler give you a compliment. As he was leaving that day, he told Daisy he had a present for her and handed her a container of yogurt that he’d brought for his lunch. “I hear you like yogurt,” he said. Daisy does like yogurt and had pointed to this container earlier that day. She, of course, eats soy or coconut yogurt, but Jose wouldn’t have known that. I told him he really didn’t need to give it to her, but I could tell he wanted to, so I finally accepted it.

Despite always eating vegan, I sometimes accept non-vegan food gifts from people who don’t know me well. For instance, as a teacher, I’m often given a candy or cookie from a child that contains dairy, and I usually accept this if they seem excited about giving it to me. I know some vegans would disagree with this, but for me, it’s more important to acknowledge the spirit of the gift than to share that I’m vegan. Afterwards, I try to give the food away to someone who will eat and enjoy it. I do this because I know that a gift of food is more than the cookie or candy or yogurt container. A gift of food is love.

Food is culture, food is tradition, food is ceremony, and food is symbol. But at its most basic level, food is love. The buttery blueberry muffins that my mom would bake was love. The butter-burger our family friend Patti bought me when my dad was in the hospital was love. The tamales that my husband’s abuelita assembled every Christmas were love. The fish my uncle soaked in buttermilk before baking when we visited him in Alaska was love. The bacon my dad would fry on a weekend morning was love. The residue the Doritos left on my fingers when I shared them with my childhood friends was love. The grease the late night cheese pizzas left on my fingers when I shared them with my twenty-something friends was love.

Since these foods represent love, it’s no wonder then that few people are vegan. It’s no wonder then, that billions of caring individuals eat animals that were raised in appalling circumstances and slaughtered in mass numbers. It’s no wonder then, that billions of caring individuals drink the milk of mothers who had their babies taken from them. It’s no wonder then, that billions of people continue to eat fish at a level that is killing our seas. In fact, it’s a testament to the bond that people have with animals that there are some people who have started to consider these traditions. When it comes to love, humans aren’t rational. I know I wasn’t for years.

So, what does this mean for veganism? What does this mean for the animals who suffer for this food? What does this mean for our planet, who suffers due to mass animal agriculture? What does this mean for those of us who’d like to encourage people to eat less animal products, but aren’t sure where to begin?

Maybe it means that treasure the traditions, but find ways to make them kinder. Maybe we veganize one family dish at a time. Maybe we find new dishes that are love. Love in my life was all those animal products I grew up eating, but now it’s also my favorite vegan pasta salad. One night, not long after I’d had a miscarriage, my husband and I couldn’t sleep, and we came downstairs and ate the leftovers we had of it in our refrigerator. I remember every bite of its creamy tofu dressing, its salty olives, and its crunchy bell peppers. I remember it as love. Love is the thing that sits by you as you cry.

Maybe it means we cry together that the grilled cheese sandwich our mothers made us came from a cow whose own children were taken from her. Maybe we remember the love with which our mothers cut it into triangles and extend that love to the cows, and don’t beat ourselves up for not knowing, or for pretending otherwise, because there’s so much we don’t know when we love. There’s so much we pretend.

Maybe it means that we think about the love we have for our dogs, and then think of the pigs we consume, who are just as intelligent. Maybe we do this without shame, but with love—for ourselves and the animals. Maybe it means we take a step back and think about how we could make choices that improve the condition of our planet. Maybe we do this not only with an open mind, but with a mind that acknowledges, “it is so incredibly hard to think about how we could have done better for our children’s future. It hurts to know that we haven’t done our best. I love the earth so much that I feel myself getting defensive whenever I read something that tells me I should eat less animal products.” Maybe those of us who have already thought about these issues could stand by the others and say, “I know, I know. It’s so incredibly hard. I know how hard it is to hear. I don’t judge you. I was you. I love you.”

Maybe we could start with love.

Vegan Cooking Without Recipes

I think one of the most intimidating things eating vegan is the idea that you’ll now need a recipe for everything. We’re used to being able to make foods without recipes–chicken and a baked potato, a cheese quesadilla, a piece of salmon with asparagus. As tempting as it sounds to keep eating that way, vegan cooking can actually be easier than you’d think.

I love looking at cooking blogs and cookbooks, but I’d also recommend thinking about what you already know how to cook and how you can “veganize” that. Start with a food you know you like that’s easy to make plant-based. Pasta, burritos, and stir fries are all good choices. Now, substitute vegan ingredients. Try nutritional yeast for cheese, and beans, tofu, or a meat substitute for protein. Before you know it, you’ve taught yourself to cook vegan, without following a complicated recipe.

A common meal for us to have in our house is pasta. We saute some crimini mushrooms in olive oil, then add a meat substitute (in this picture it’s Beyond Meat’s Beefy Crumble–which just happens to be gluten and soy free). We mix this with a jar of pasta sauce and perhaps some Kalamata olives. To add a little extra nutrition, we chop kale and add it to the last few minutes of the pasta’s cooking time. It can be sprinkled with nutritional yeast and served with a salad for a satisfying meal.

This can have endless variations–zucchini added to the sauce in the summer time, a homemade pasta sauce when you have some more time, fresh herbs from your garden.

Try it for yourself, and you’ll soon have at least one meal a week that’s both easy and vegan.

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“Do You Realize?”: Pregnancy Hormones

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Today, I teared up in the grocery store. The Flaming Lips Song “Do You Realize?” came on as I was putting spinach in a bag and talking to my daughter. If you’re unfamiliar with the song, you should listen to it; like many songs, its lyrics all somewhat flat printed on the page without their melody. Anyway, its opening goes:

Do you realize?, that you have the most beautiful face
Do you realize?, we’re floating in space,
Do you realize?, that happiness makes you cry
Do you realize?, that everyone you know someday will die
When I tear up, I never can explain in the moment exactly why I’m crying. Tears aren’t logical. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I cried once when the Blazers lost a basketball game. When my husband comforted me, I sobbed, “but they tried so hard.”
I guess the song brought tears to my eyes because of how true it is. Because when you do anything worth doing in life, the beauty and the pain are intertwined. Because it’s the fragile things–the newborn–that are the most beautiful. Because when I look at my daughter I love her so much that it hurts.
Of course, the thing about pregnancy hormones, is that you end up crying over things that you would normally feel quietly to yourself. I was embarrassed of this during my pregnancy with my daughter. I’m still not incredibly comfortable with the tears this time around.
But now that I’m raising my daughter, I’m also thinking a lot about empathy, and how we teach kids about empathy. I wonder if the way we teach empathy is to first allow our kids to feel their feelings. Can we expect an ability to feel for others, if we’ve lost the ability to feel for ourselves?
I get why we try to suppress our feelings. It’s not practical to cry at every shopping trip. But, it’s also not exactly serving us well to swallow our truths, or to shield them with an inauthentic veneer. Pregnancy is supposed to be a time of preparation. Maybe rather than thinking of the emotional aspect of pregnancy as an embarrassing side effect, we could think of it as another part of the preparation. Being in touch with our own emotions can help us to accept our children’s often irrational-seeming emotions. And that might be the greatest gift we can give them–to love them unconditionally through every tear.
I want to give that gift to my daughter, and to my unborn son. So, I’ll start with letting myself cry by the spinach.

 

 

 

Vegan Cheese Sauce

Eating vegan doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. In fact, with a toddler in the house, I prefer it to be neither.

Last week, I made this delicious cheese from the blog Veggie on a Penny. I love the fact that it’s made up of potatoes and carrots, rather than cashews and/or packaged “cheese” like many vegan cheese sauces are. Not only does this make it healthy, it also makes it cheap! The recipe was easy to whip up, made a huge quantity, and my 18 month old daughter loved it mixed with macaroni and peas. I put some freshly ground black pepper on top of my bowl, just to feel a little more adult.

IMG_3035 (1)I’m also looking forward to trying it in quesadillas and on grilled cheese.

And if you have favorite easy, inexpensive vegan recipes or meal ideas that other families might want to know about, let me know!

 

Vegan for our Children

“Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” ― Albert Einstein

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I recognize how people must view my raising my family vegan. At best, the majority of people might think I’m depriving my kids, at worst, they might think I’m malnourishing them (in fact, a well-planned–and shouldn’t every diet be well-planned–vegan diet has been deemed appropriate for all ages by the ADA). Others might think I’m imposing my own fringe beliefs on my children.

Knowing I’ll face judgment, I need to remind myself of reasons to go vegan. Every vegan probably has a certain story or statistic that cemented it for them. Here are a few of mine:

  • Meat: There are no “humane” slaughterhouses. I appreciate the people who have worked to give animals raised for food the best lives possible. However, in the end, we need to kill the happy chickens in order to have meat. These animals are not killed as they were by our hunter-gatherer ancestors. The vast majority also aren’t killed by the small family farmer. Instead, they’re packed into trucks and go through an assembly-line style slaughterhouse. There are not organic or free range slaughterhouses. Not only do I not want an animal to be killed this way, but I don’t want other humans have to kill in such large quantities every day. Slaughterhouse workers can suffer from PTSD and towns that have slaughterhouses experience higher rates of violence (take a look at this article from The Texas Observer for more information).
  • Eggs: Just as I know many people who try to eat “humane” meat, I also know many people who try to eat free range eggs. Some even raise chickens in their backyard. I so appreciate the care that many I know give their backyard chickens, and it’s definitely the best solution we have if we’re going to eat eggs. However, the core problem for me is how we get the chickens who lay the eggs. Currently, when male chicks are born, they are ground alive or suffocated, since there is no need for them. I don’t need to eat eggs to survive, so I don’t need chicks to die on my behalf. As for the question of free range eggs that are store-bought, unfortunately, the labels on the egg containers in the grocery store don’t always mean what we wish they would. For instance, “cage free” means no cages–it doesn’t mean that chickens aren’t still packed together and these chickens can still be de-beaked. “Free range” can be a large warehouse with one small door to access the outdoors.
  • Dairy: I’ve had many people say to me, “I could definitely give up meat, but not cheese.” I agree–dairy can be the biggest hurdle to going vegan. As a girl from Wisconsin, it was for me. What keeps me dairy-free is realizing the link between dairy and meat–male dairy calves are raised for veal, and old dairy cows are slaughtered. However, what really keeps me from eating that delicious cheese, is the experience of losing a child to miscarriage. I’ve never experienced such profound, unexplainable grief as that, and I had never even seen that child. In order to produce milk for human consumption, we need to constantly impregnate cows, but then take their calves from them. I’ll admit–I’ll never know exactly what cow cognition is like. But I know this, they cry when their calves are taken. As a mother, I understand this with the core of my being.

There is one over-arching reason that’s perhaps even bigger for me than these questions of cruelty: the environmental impacts of eating animals and animal products. The amount of resources it takes to produce the amount of animal products humans currently want to consume is unsustainable. Animal agriculture creates emissions that contribute to global warming; it is also the leading cause of rainforest destruction, takes vast amounts of water, animal waste pollutes our land and water, and fishing has pushed many species of marine animals to the brink of extinction. Simply put, we can feed more people, and preserve more resources, if we eat plant-based. Many would argue that instead of giving up animal products, we should move back to more small-scare farming and fishing operations. While I appreciate those who work towards solutions like those, the small-scale operations simply cannot feed our skyrocketing global demand for animal products, which is why we have to take the demand down. Way down.

All these reasons keep me vegan, and keep me believing that veganism is best for my family. However, what really keeps me vegan is parenthood itself. I want my kids to grow up believing in radical kindness, believing that individuals have power to minimize the amounts of violence in the world. I want my children to grow up believing that they can have an impact on the world by the choices they make. I want my children to be able to give their children a world as beautiful as the one we have now.

In the past, animal products were necessary for humanity’s survival, and they are still necessary in some regions of the world. However, they are no longer necessary in industrialized nations. The amazing thing about humans is their ability to change, adapt, and evolve. Our children will learn things about their place on earth beyond our wildest dreams–just think of all we’ve already learned. Kahlil Gibran writes on children in The Prophet:

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

I do not know what the house of tomorrow will be like for my children, but I want to give them the best opportunity I’m currently aware of to get to a beautiful house of tomorrow. That’s why I’m vegan. I’m vegan because I love animals, because I love the earth, but most of all, because I love humanity.

 

What’s New?

So, what’s the new in The New Vegan Family?

I am a relatively new vegan mom–my daughter is 18 months old.

While I’ve been vegan for awhile, being a parent adds a new wrinkle to it. I didn’t anticipate the fear of judgment that I’d feel for raising a child vegan. I also didn’t anticipate how much more passionate having a child would make me about veganism–I look at her and realize I want to help create a world where people are kind to the earth and animals.

I am newly pregnant with my second child–in my second trimester.

I’d like to share what I’ve learned about pregnancy, pregnancy loss, birth, and everything else that goes along with creating a new life.

I want to help those who are new to parenthood, veganism, or both.

This hasn’t always been easy for me–parenthood or veganism–and I often found myself searching for support (usually at 2 am, when the baby wasn’t sleeping). I’d like to offer that support to anyone, whether they are vegan or just looking to eat less animal products.

Writing this is a new journey for me.

I hope you’ll come along.